Millions of poor people around the world face hunger and poverty this year and the next due to droughts, erratic rains and the onset of a powerful El Niño – the climate phenomenon that develops in the tropical Pacific and brings extreme weather to several regions of the world.
From the Horn of Africa to the Pacific Islands, people in poverty are already feeling the effects of this super El Niño, seeing their crops fail and the price of staple foods soar because of shortages.
In the Pacific, as many as 4.7 million people have been affected by worsening droughts, erratic rains and frosts. Papua New Guinea has been severely affected, particularly in the highlands, with widespread drought and frost affecting an estimated 2.4 million people, destroying crops and livestock. Drought has also affected Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Samoa and Tonga, damaging crops and water supplies.
More intense rain is likely in the equatorial Pacific, increasing the risk of flooding and higher sea levels in central Pacific Island countries such as Kiribati and Tuvalu. El Niño also increases the probability of a longer Southern Hemisphere tropical cyclone season, which officially began on 1 November, and a greater proportion of severe cyclones (Category 3 or higher), particularly for countries in the eastern Pacific such as the Cook Islands and Samoa. Monsoon rains have been poor across the region, but the worst-hit country in Asia is currently Indonesia, where November 2015 Page 7 of 8 drought conditions are affecting millions of people and exacerbating huge forest fires. The forecast for the
Philippines is poor, with 85 percent of the country expected to be in drought by March 2016. The situation in Asia needs to be carefully monitored.
A number of Pacific governments and humanitarian agencies, including Oxfam, have scaled up preparedness and early response activities, but further scale-up and coordination are urgently needed, particularly in Papua New Guinea where the needs are most severe. Donors have reported challenges in providing funding in the absence of official invitations from national governments.
Horn and East Africa
Drought has hit Ethiopia and neighbouring areas (Somaliland, Eritrea, north-east Sudan). Vast areas of the country have been affected with millions of livestock deaths already.
Drought is affecting huge areas across Southern Africa. Maize harvests have been significantly reduced, including in South Africa, the region’s main exporter. Scaled-up livelihood support is needed now in advance of the lean season starting earlier, particularly in Malawi.
Small farmers and day labourers in Central America and Haiti are currently the worst affected, and there is also potential for worsening drought and major flooding in South America.
Early action must be taken to halt the widespread hunger, thirst and disease taking place in New Zealand’s neighbourhood due to a super-charged El Niño.
At least four million people in the Pacific face hunger, water shortages and risk of disease this year and next due to droughts and erratic rains, influenced by climate change and the likely development of a ‘super El Niño’.